PAKISTAN: Christian Hospital Worker in Danger After Being Accused of Blasphemy

Oct 12, 2022 | VoM

Forty-two-year-old James Masih has been a hospital worker at the THQ Hospital for the last 12 years.

Now, his life is under threat due to a false allegation last week that James committed blasphemy.

The allegation, which was made last week by a disgruntled Muslim hospital patient, has drawn much media attention in a video that has now gone viral on social media and has been featured in the Punjab local news.

The incident occurred last Wednesday 5 October when a Muslim woman named Nazia went to the hospital for a medical screening.

James, whose duties included assisting staff in the emergency ward, described their interaction: “I asked her to go to Room 11 to get her blood pressure checked, but she refused. While I was trying my best to convince her to go to Room 11, a staff nurse came. I told the nurse that this lady was not listening to me, and the nurse then asked the patient to go to Room 11. She listened to her.”

After completing her initial screening with the doctor, Nazia returned to the waiting room and began abusing James. “She came back to me and started threatening and accusing me of uttering disrespectful words about the prophet Muhammad,” he said. “I hadn’t done any such thing.”

“I went to Dr Maqsood and told him that Nazia is accusing me of committing blasphemy. He told me not to worry and that when she came back from her tests, he would talk to her. When she came back, Dr Maqsood asked Nazia why she was accusing me of committing blasphemy. She replied, ‘He was misbehaving with me’.

“In the meantime, a man entered the room with a mobile phone in his hand. He had filmed me and Nazia when she was shouting and accusing me of committing blasphemy, and I didn’t know anything about this.

“I got scared of this situation, so I went home. The next day I was told that there is a viral video on social media, claiming that I had committed blasphemy. I watched the video and it was breaking news broadcasted by the TV9, saying that ‘A sanitary worker of the Chaubara Hospital has committed blasphemy’.

“I knew the sensitivity of this news; it was a death warrant against me. That same night, we decided to move somewhere safe for myself and my family. Since then, I have been hiding at an unknown place.

“I am very concerned about my safety and that of my family, and don’t know how we can continue living here. [Blasphemy] is a very sensitive matter, and in such cases, people become very emotional. They could kill me on the spot, as normally happens in such cases. There are a number of examples where innocent people have been killed based on one person’s accusations.”

Shumaila, James’ wife, said that Nazia is just trying to settle her personal grudge with the family. Shumaila went on to explain: “Nazia is the widow of Muhammad Arif, a rikshaw driver. We had an arrangement with Muhammad to take to our children to school and drop them back home after school.

“In June this year, we were short of money one day and instead of 4000 rupees (approx $30) I paid him 3,600 rupees and told him I would pay the remaining 400 rupees later. Soon after this, Muhammad died.

“After some time, his wife Nazia came to our house and told me that we owe her 4000 rupees. I told her that I had already paid some of the amount and that only 400 rupees remained, which I then gave her, but she started abusing me, calling me ‘chuhra’ [a derogative word that Muslims use against Christians], saying Christians are dishonest people, and being abusive against Christianity.

“After a few days, Nazia accused my husband of committing blasphemy. The matter was brought to the attention of the hospital’s medical superintendent who involved the police superintendent and assistant superintendent. James was found not guilty, and the matter was resolved. But this didn’t satisfy Nazia, and she wanted to teach us a lesson. This time, she has involved the media.

“Her false accusations have endangered our whole family’s lives, and if this matter is not resolved we have no future. My children have already stopped going to school, and we have no permanent place to live but are moving from one place to another to stay safe.

Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK (Centre for Legal Aid & Assistance) has said: “It is sad that people are continuing to misuse this [blasphemy] law blatantly. There are several instances where clearly it can be seen that accusations are false and the aim of the accusations is merely to teach someone a lesson.

“The law is considered an easy way to settle personal scores against someone. People don’t even think twice before using this law against someone, as victims of this law have to spend 8-11 years in prison to prove themselves innocent. Even after acquittal by the higher court, they are pardoned but still considered a blasphemer.

“It is a hanging sword on the head of Christians and other religious minorities, because when someone is accused of committing blasphemy it is not against a single person, but the whole community comes under threat.

“Nearly 100 people, including women, have been extra-judicially killed, and hundreds more languish in jail for years for their fate to be decided. False accusers are never brought to justice, and this continues to encourage people to take the law into their own hands and make false accusations against other persons to settle their personal scores.

“Law enforcement agencies feel under pressure in such cases, while courts take years to decide such cases because of fear and pressure.

“It can be seen in the video that James didn’t say a single word, while Nazia is speaking and the media person is trying to get a strong statement from her to be used against Masih. I believe this was all planned just to implicate James in a blasphemy case to teach him a lesson.”

Source: CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid & Assistance)

Please Pray

Pray that the tensions surrounding James and his family after the viral video will die down and that their family will feel safe once more.

Pray that Nazia will be convicted of her malicious actions and that she will withdraw her allegations.

Pray for the many Christians who are accused of blasphemy in Pakistan and are locked in prison for years awaiting their fate.